One of the largest expenditures of the federal government, national defense, is widely seen as untouchable in mainstream politics. Every president and Congress increases defense spending, but the crucial fact is that very little of this money has anything to do with defending Americans on U.S. soil.

Instead, the U.S. government engages in no-win wars of nation-building and maintains hundreds of bases in nations worldwide. The bureaucratic waste and graft in the military establishment have long been identified by respected conservative voices such as Senator Robert Taft and President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The $600 billion annual defense budget does not even include all expenses associated with protecting the country—Homeland Security, nuclear weapons security, veterans programs, off-budget military operations and so forth. Any serious proposal to significantly reduce U.S. spending to a responsible, constitutional, and sustainable amount must include a fundamental rethinking of U.S. spending on “defense.”

For the MyGovCost Calculator, “defense” primarily reflects the underlying costs of the Department of Defense, including the cost of personnel, housing, construction, equipment, and military operations, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Defense spending also includes spending on nuclear development programs.

Learn more about Defense Spending problems and the solutions:

“Pentagon’s Budget Realities Mandate New Defense Team”
Winslow T. Wheeler (The Hill) April 16, 2013

“From War to Welfare: How Taxes and Entitlements Begin with Militarism”
Ivan Eland (The American Conservative) February 27, 2013

“Founding Fathers’ Advice to Deficit ‘Super Committee’: Bring US Troops Home”
David J. Theroux (Christian Science Monitor) September 21, 2011

“Defense Spending Is Much Greater Than You Think”
Robert Higgs (The Beacon) April 17, 2010

“Why Freeze Spending on Only Part of the Budget?”
Ivan Eland; January 27, 2010

“The Trillion-Dollar Defense Budget Is Already Here”
Robert Higgs; March 15, 2007

“The Cold War Is Over, But U.S. Preparation for It Continues”
Robert Higgs (The Independent Review) Fall 2001

See Also:

Independent Institute’s Archive on Defense and Foreign Policy